Readers of Thomo’s Hole will by now know that I have a soft spot for the USS Mongolia (c’mon Mal, paint the ship, you know you want to). I’ve written about her history in the past, found the odd photograph of her at the US Navy Historical Center and shared some information around. I received the following message on my Facebook Account the other day.
Hello Mr. Thompson,
I am a descendant (by marriage only) of Captain Emery Rice who was the commander of the USS Mongolia before and during her war efforts. I am trying to find further information on him and ship, and haven’t found much info out there. I have clippings of different news articles and so forth that my great great aunt had kept of him, even after they divorced a year before his death. I know of his sister, in fact I have letters from her to my Aunt, but I can’t find anything regarding his two brothers. All I can find is that he had two brothers who lived in the west. I don’t even know what his parents names were or anything like that. My great great aunt was very secretive and a very stern woman, and when she divorced him, it was because to quote the phrase “he had a woman in another port”. I know from his sister’s letters, that he did not want the divorce, and he died just a year later in New York still regretting the divorce. I am hoping that you might be able to help me find further information on him and the ship. I would like to piece together this bit of family history. He original was Captain of the USS China prior to serving on the USS Mongolia. He was also offered the USS Leviathan, which was the 4th fastest ship for turn around time, (the USS Mongolia was 5th), but he was offer the commission of that ship, but he died before he could take the commission.
Please let me know if you think you can point me in the right direction. He was quite the decorated man, he was also in the American Spanish war, and he was the one who waved the flag at Sampson telling him that the “Spanish were escaping”. In 1919 that flag he waved was displayed at Harvard’s museum. I have yet to contact them to see if they even still have it.
Anyway, I would be very grateful if you could help me in any way. My Great Great Aunt’s name was Clara Cameron, and they were only married a few years. Just in case you see her name on anything out there. 🙂
An interesting message. After passing some information, Jessica wrote back the following:
Thank you Ian! You can certainly post my comments on your blog. I’m hoping to track down his brothers’ family if there are any descendants still around. I am very curious as to what happened to his medal from the Mikado that he was given. His sister was the executer of his Will, but I don’t believe she and her husband had any children. I will have to read through her letters again to see if I can find any mention of any or of the brothers. It was really intriguing when I found the letters in an old desk in the upstairs of my grandmother’s farm house. She had forgotten they were there. Like most all people who lived through the Great Depression over here, they never threw anything away, which I am very grateful for, as we have a few treasures like these letters, and a scrap book that Clara Cameron kept of Captain Emery Rice, even after his death. The first letter I opened and read said something like this “we both knew that when we met again that it could not be with out tears” after that my interest was completely hooked. I have found no letters from Captain Emery but the letters are from his sister to my aunt, they remained friends till their deaths. When the his sister passed away, her husband than continued to write to my aunt, and when my grandmother wrote to him telling of my aunt’s death, he then wrote to my grandmother until he passed away.
There is a scholarship here in the US given in Captain Emery’s name, but what I have found on their website doesn’t give much info on him.
I actually have another question of you since you are in Australia. Is there much info over there regarding WWII and the battles of the US troops in the jungle of New Guinea and Santa Ana Tract of Australia? My Uncle fought there, being only one of a few hundred that came back out alive. I’m also trying to research his story as well. I am still trying find his unit info and so forth, but I was curious if you knew anything about those battles?
Interesting. Captain Emery is reasonably easy to find some information on – a quick search of the New York Times((The New York Times archives are really great for news articles from the early 20th and late 19th centuries in particular)) archives for example brings this piece, CAPT. EMERY RICE DIES OF PNEUMONIA; from the Sunday, 5 January 1919 issue (click the link above to read the full article):
Captain Emery Rice, who commanded the Mongolia, the first American steamship to sink a German Submarine, and who made forty-one voyages across the Atlantic during the war, died yesterday at the New York Navy Yard Hospital of pneumonia following influenza. He was ill only a week.
So readers, two questions for you:
- Does anyone have any information on Captain Emery Rice and/or his family or suggestions about where to find more information.
- Anybody got any information on “WWII and the battles of the US troops in the jungle of New Guinea and Santa Ana Tract of Australia”?
Any information about that would be nice to hear as well. In the meantime, anything more I find out I will, of course, publish here.